Phone video captures fiery crash, 5 dead after driver goes speeding on wrong side of I-275
1:37 AM, Feb 10, 2014
8:44 PM, Feb 10, 2014
TAMPA - The blood-curdling screams from Jada Wright came moments after she just witnessed five people die in a fiery crash along I-275 just north of Busch Boulevard early Sunday morning.
"I get so emotional when I look at that," said Wright, 19, who was watching the cellphone video she shot from her car as she was driving along the interstate at 2:20 a.m. Her screams of terror happened as two cars collided and exploded on impact.
"I thought I was dreaming," said Wright, who posted the graphic video on her Facebook page. It shows a white Ford Expedition speeding past her southbound on the wrong side of I-275. Just as the vehicle disappears from view, a fireball appears suddenly as she drives by.
"What I saw was he smacked into a car and it blew up, and his truck went into the air," Wright said.
She spent most of Sunday unable to sleep. "I got really sad and I cried and I cried," Wright said.
Four members of the Sigma Beta Rho fraternity at USF were killed. Three were current students, while one was a recent graduate.
The Florida Highway Patrol identified the four victims:
Jobin Kuriakose , 21, of Orlando
Ankeet Patel, 22, of Melbourne
Dammie Yeshudhas, 21 of Ft. Myers
Imitiyaz "Jim" Ilias, 20, of Ft. Myers
Ilias excelled in wrestling at Cypress Lake High School in Fort Myers. He grew from a timid freshman to team captain, according to school staff. He was known for the encouragement he gave teammates.
"Never make excuses," Ilias says in a YouTube video recorded in the school gym. He does pull-ups as he talks. "Because excuses are tools of the incompetent. And those who master them, major in a world of nothingness."
Ilias spoke to his family this weekend, including his older brother, Ghan Ilias. His last words to him were "I love you," which comforts Ghan Ilias now.
"I feel like I have a dark hole inside me," his brother said.
The Florida Highway Patrol said it would likely review the cell phone video as it tries to piece together why the driver of the expedition was on the wrong side of the road.
The SUV driver's body was so badly burned it will likely take dental records to identify him. It's unclear whether alcohol or drugs played a role, or whether the driver was on the wrong side of the highway on purpose.
"It's shocking and really right now I guess we're just trying to support each other and, more importantly, the families," said Jigar Patel, a Sigma Beta Rho officer.
"Jim was a really good kid," said Mikayla Zafir, a USF student who was friends with Imitiyaz Ilias. "They were probably so scared. They had their whole lives ahead of them," she said as tears filled her eyes.
A prayer vigil was held along the side of northbound I-275 Sunday night near the site of the deadly crash. Dozens of fraternity members and friends gathered together to remember the victims and offer support for those mourning their loss.
"Four guys, I mean four of them young kids who just started their life, they're gone from this world," said Mohammed Emran, the head of an association for Bangladesh in Florida.
The president of Sigma Beta Rho at USF, Raj Patel, tried to put the crash into a positive perspective.
"Everything happens for a reason," Patel said. "You know they're in a better place than we are right now because they earned their spot."
A memorial for those killed will be held at 3:30 p.m. at the USF student center on Thursday, February 13.